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What are Sandflies?

Sand flies are commonly found in tropical climates with sandy areas.
An insect net can help keep sand flies out while sleeping.
Citronella can help deter sand flies.
Sandfly bites can cause a reaction such as hives.
Products containing witch hazel can relieve irritation from sandfly bites.
Aspirin may be useful in easing the inflammation associated with sandfly bites.
A topical cream can be applied to alleviate itchy skin.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2014
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Sandflies, or sand flies, are tiny biting insects in the order Diptera, which includes the true flies. The name isn't a technical term, but rather a common name applied to a very diverse group of bugs. They are found in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, typically in sandy areas, and some of them carry diseases, making them a public health risk in addition to a nuisance.

People generally refer to any small, biting fly as a sandfly. Typically, only females actually bite, using the proteins in the blood they collect to build their eggs. Most sandflies are extremely small, leading to common names like “no see 'ums” or “punkies.” They are also known as sandfleas, sand gnats, or chitras. The life cycle of the insect requires a moist spot to lay eggs, so they are especially common in areas like the seashore.

The bite of a sandfly can be formidable. Although these creatures are small, their bites often sting, and an area of swelling may appear around the area. Some people experience allergic reactions when bitten by one, and they may develop hives, difficulty breathing, or other allergy symptoms. For the most part, the bites are painful, but not inherently dangerous. Some species carry diseases like leishmaniasis, however, which can be problematic for their victims.

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An itchy sandfly bite can be soothed with witch hazel or a similar astringent. Applications of ice and hydrocortisone cream can help reduce the swelling and itchiness, and aspirin can also ease inflammation. People should try to avoid scratching at bites, as this can open up the bite, creating a small sore that is vulnerable to infection.

In areas where sandflies carry disease, such as Africa and the Middle East, most people try to avoid being bitten. Insecticides can help deter the insects, as can the use of citronella candles. Since these bugs are mostly active at night, surrounding an outdoor party with citronella candles can protect the guests while enhancing the decor. While sleeping, insect nets and window screens can keep them out of the home or tent.

For travelers, being aware of sandfly bites is a good idea. If a medical problem emerges later, it may be useful for the healthcare professional to know that the patient was bitten while traveling. Without this information, he or she might take longer to arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan.

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chrisinbama
Post 4

@cmsmith10: There have also been Gulf War veterans that have experienced sand fly fever. Their symptoms were flu-like at times. They also experienced lower back pain, fever, headache, shivering, and meningitis.

Carrion’s disease can also be attributed to sand flies. It causes high fever, soreness, painful blisters and sores, and even death. The symptoms typically don’t appear until two weeks after being bitten by a sand fly. The symptoms can continue for three or four months. Strong antibiotics can lessen the symptoms.

momothree
Post 3

@cmsmith10: There is one disease called leishmaniasis, also called Baghdad boil, which has affected many people. There were several cases in Texas in 2007. It causes sores or boils on your skin. It also causes weight loss, fever, and swelling of the spleen. It can even affect your organs.

It had previously been in Mexico, South America and the Middle East. 2007 was the first year that it was discovered in the United States. People affected had never traveled to any of those places. Scientists determined that the infection came from sand flies that had taken blood meals from animals that carried the virus.

cmsmith10
Post 2

What kinds of diseases do sandflies carry?

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